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Three plead not guilty to murder of man found on Edens

BenjamSchenk | Courtesy Lake County Sheriff's Office

Benjamin Schenk | Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office

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Updated: August 4, 2013 6:16AM

The three men accused of shooting a Highland Park man in the head and then leaving the body along the Edens Expressway pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder at their arraignments Tuesday, July 2.

Benjamin Schenk, 20, Philip Vatamaniuc, 17, and Michael Coffee, 17, denied shooting Colin Nutter, 20, in Highwood and then dropping his body off near the expressway in Wilmette June 3.

“Nobody deserves this, nobody in the world — especially our son,” Colin’s mother, Angie Nutter, said after the arraignment hearing.

All three are charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle and concealment of a homicide. Vatamaniuc and Coffee face 35 to 75 years in prison for the first-degree murder charge.

Because Schenk is alleged to have personally discharged the firearm that killed Nutter, he faces 45 years in prison to life if he is convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutor Reginald Mathews said.

All three are in custody at Lake County Jail in lieu of $5 million bond.

Vatamaniuc’s attorney Robert Ritacca requested a hearing date to discuss modifying his client’s bond.

“I believe that’s very high, based on the nature of the offense and his age,” Ritacca told Circuit Judge Mark Levitt during the arraignment.

Nutter’s parents Angie and Michael Nutter of Highland Park were present in the courtroom as Schenk, Vatamaniuc and Coffee took their turns pleading not guilty to all charges.

“We need to be here for him (Colin). He was caring, loving and non violent,” Angie said.

The trio is alleged to have arranged a drug deal with Nutter the morning of June 3, officials said. Vatamaniuc and Coffee gave police statements implicating Schenk as the shooter, police said.

Nutter died of a gunshot wound to the head.

A jogger found him lying in brush on the east side of Frontage Road, just south of the intersection of Old Glenview Road and Briar Drive in Wilmette June 3, officials said.

A fourth man, Francisco Anthony Martinez, 19, was recently charged in connection with Nutter’s murder.

Mathews said an investigation is under way to determine if Martinez furnished Schenk, Coffee and Vatamaniuc with the .40-caliber handgun that may have been the murder weapon.

Martinez was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to investigators about the Nutter homicide investigation. Mathews could not disclose the nature of Martinez’s alleged falsehoods to police.

Martinez is due in court for bond review July 3. He is in Lake County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Schenk is due for trial Oct. 7 and is due back in court July 25. Coffee is due for trial Aug. 26 and is due back in court July 29.

Ritacca filed a speedy trial demand June 20, meaning that Vatamaniuc’s trial will be within 120 days from the date the request was filed.

His trial is scheduled for July 22.

Vatamaniuc is due back in court July 12 to set a bond review hearing date.

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